LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – WAVE 3 News has uncovered answers to some of the questions that tie Gov. Matt Bevin together with a historic home and the state's pension fund.
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The home is the 150-year-old Anchorage Place. It's the home after which the city of Anchorage is named.
At the beginning of this year, it was owned by local businessman Neil Ramsey. Now, Bevin lives there. The timeline of the sale and a state board appointment for Ramsey is what's creating questions.
Ramsey bought the home in 2004 along with other land. In 2013, he sold the home to himself under a company called The Anchorage, LLC. An LLC is a type of company that shields someone from liability or debt. The selling price was $3 million.
It's now the home of Bevin and his family. That sale happened after Bevin appointed Ramsey as a board member for the Kentucky Retirement System in 2016.
Ramsey has impressive credentials for the job, managing billions of dollars for private clients. That could raise conflict-of-interest questions, especially since he sold his home to the man who appointed him.
The state's Executive Branch Ethics Commission is responsible for investigating conflict-of-interest claims.
"I've never felt that in my time with the commission that the commission has ever made decisions based on politics," said Katie Gabhart, the commission's executive director. "I believe we provide a service for the commonwealth. We are a watchdog entity."
Gabhart couldn't discuss the deal specifically but Ramsey did, responding to WAVE 3 News' questions only via email.
"We go to great lengths to ensure there are no overlaps or conflicts of interest," he wrote. "We can't make a decision that would benefit our funds, my company or me personally."
Ramsey shed some light on the sale of the house to Bevin, though some parts remain unclear.
In March, a few months after Ramsey's appointment, he sold the historic home at 804 Evergreen Road, to Anchorage Place, LLC. This is not a company Ramsey owns.
The sale was for $1.6 million, just over half of the $3 million Ramsey sold it to himself for in 2013.
Ramsey said he negotiated with the governor directly.
"He and I agreed to the price and the lawyers sorted out the closing details," Ramsey said.
WAVE 3 News learned new details about the timeline of the sale that raise more questions.
Multiple sources told WAVE 3 News that there were discussions of Bevin moving to Anchorage in the fall.
"It was late last year as Matt and Glenna were sorting out the demands of being governor and the tradeoff between security, privacy and access to their daily life," Ramsey said. "The house met all those needs."
Still, both parties went through a lot of effort to make sure the deal looked fair.
The home was advertised for sale on Feb. 27.
It went under contract three days later, and closed a week after that.
The issue is the company named after the home and that eventually bought it, Anchorage Place, LLC, had already formed Feb. 24, three days before it went on the market.
Ramsey wouldn't comment on why the home was advertised if a deal was already made.
Bevin wouldn't talk about the issue at all. He hasn't responded to WAVE 3 News' requests for an interview.
"There's a difference between little 'e' ethics and big 'E' violation of the ethics code," Gabhart said. "Two different things."
Gabhart said the ethics code doesn't allow an official like the governor to make a decision about someone he's had business dealings with, like with Ramsey's appointment.
In this case, though, the home was sold after Ramsey was appointed to the board. The ethics code doesn't cover that situation. Ramsey and his wife have donated a combined $39,000 to Bevin, his inaugural fund and the Republican Party.
"Something can be amoral, can be unethical in common sense terms, but saying someone violated the ethics code is a much higher standard," Gabhart said.
Bevin's financial disclosure statement will not have to include whether he owns the LLC or not until April 2018.
When asked whether he had any regrets about the house deal with Bevin, Ramsey provided the following in-depth answer.
"I have no regret. I hope that the Governor and his family have found a home they can raise their family and he can continue to work hard serving our state. His family deserves some expectation of privacy.
I would like to add the following with regards to serving on the KRS board. I am really proud of the work we are doing. I believe in the need to serve the people of Kentucky to have built their lives on KRS. It is certainly a difficult, time-consuming task with a long way to go to ensure it is viable and meets the needs of those who depend on it. But, we have already gotten a lot done.
1. We've brought in new board members with real investment expertise, which I'm told has not been a focus before.
2. We've addressed our actuarial assumptions in a much more realistic way so that the legislator and the governor can make more informed decisions as to how to solve our pension problem.
3. We've reoriented the way we categorize risk considering the return and liquidity needs of each of the programs.
4. We've cut the hedge fund portfolio by 60% because a large portion of the allocations were adding no value and were very high cost.
5. We've redefined how diversifying strategies can add value to our portfolio and the guidelines for inclusion.
6. We've implemented a differential asset allocation program based on the liquidity needs of each individual retirement plan.
7. We've reduced consultant costs.
8. We've restructured the way we consider new investments in less liquid strategies to greatly lower our costs and improve our investment returns.
And there is still a lot to do.
As far as any personal conflicts I may have serving as a Board member of KRS, I have already proven that I have chosen the interests of KRS over my personal interests by serving on the board and putting in a lot of hard work. I guess there are two schools of thought on how to deal with this.
1. Avoid all appearances of conflict by appointing people who have no experience and little competence. Or
2. Get the most experienced and competent people you can find and make sure they have integrity.
I think this Governor and the other KRS board members from both sides of the political aisle have chosen number 2. I hope my performance for the people of Kentucky will validate their choice."